On the brink of being swept in a four-game series, Torii Hunter rescued the Detroit Tigers and prevented Max Scherzer from absorbing his second loss of the season.
Hunter crushed a three-run homer to cap a four-run bottom of the ninth inning and lift the Tigers to a dramatic 7-6 come-from-behind win over the Oakland Athletics at Comerica Park.
Scherzer was bidding to join Roger Clemens (2001) as the only pitchers to win 20 of their first 21 decisions. Instead, the Detroit right-hander was tagged for a season-high six runs (five earned). He tied a season high with eight hits allowed and matched a season low by lasting only five innings.
However, the Tigers erased a five-run deficit against the Oakland bullpen.
"Probably should've taken the loss today, but Torii bailed me out," said a laughing Scherzer. "It is what it is."
Bartolo Colon was in line for his 15th win in his return from the disabled list. Colon worked five innings in his 400th career start, giving up just one run on seven hits in his first action since Aug. 13. The 40-year-old struggled in two outings prior to landing on the 15-day DL with a strained left groin, surrendering 10 earned runs and 14 hits over 6 2/3 innings.
Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez each had three hits and an RBI for the AL Central-leading Tigers, who orchestrated the comeback without Miguel Cabrera.
The third baseman left with discomfort in his abdomen after making an awkward slide into second base in the bottom of the fifth. He was tagged out trying for a double.
Brandon Moss homered for the third straight game and finished with four home runs and 10 RBI in the series for Oakland, which remained a half-game behind Tampa Bay for the overall wild-card lead.
Fielder ignited the rally with a leadoff home run in a sixth inning that also featured Ramon Santiago's RBI single.
Grant Balfour (0-3) was tasked with recording the game's final three outs, but his control was erratic from the onset. He threw six straight pitches out of the strike zone before Andy Dirks popped out. After Alex Avila was called out on strikes, Fielder drew a walk and Martinez singled home Austin Jackson before Hunter hammered a 1-1 pitch to left-center field for his fourth career walk-off home run.
"I felt terrible today. I don't know what it was. I had nothing. I didn't have a fastball, I didn't have a good breaking ball," said Balfour, who had blown just one other save opportunity this year.
Joaquin Benoit (4-0) earned the win after Oakland stranded men on the corners in the top of the ninth.
The Athletics wasted little time jumping on Scherzer, who gave up a two-run homer to Jed Lowrie in the first inning.
Daric Barton and Eric Sogard hit back-to-back sacrifice flies in the fourth, and Moss obliterated a Scherzer offering an inning later, sending it way back to the seats in right field for a two-run blast and a 6-1 Oakland lead.